In facilitating a client’s strategic planning retreat recently, one of the board members, known for having a healthy ego, kept pushing for a legacy event that would carry his name. This board member was more concerned with having his name on something than on developing or providing a valuable service to their members. As he started to pressure others to support his wishes, I asked, “What’s a greater legacy: Developing the one-time event you’ve been discussing — or — creating a program that will help drive your organization forward while benefiting thousands over the next several years?” No one needed much time to identify the answer.
When asked objectively, identifying the greater legacy is obvious and benefits many.
When asked objectively, identifying the greater legacy is obvious and it benefits many instead of just one or a few. By identifying and then acting upon the greater legacy option, this organization’s members will benefit from an impactful program, the organization will benefit from a program that supports a number of its strategic focus areas, and the board member will benefit by having his name associated with the program for years to come. Win-win-win.
Legacy-Building Is Beneficial When It’s Outward and Not Inward Focused
In strategy sessions I often hear participants say, “So-and-so is just trying to build a legacy for herself” or “He’s only doing that to establish his legacy.” Whatever the scenario, legacy-building is more often than not, frowned upon. The observers watch in disdain, grumble behind closed doors, act as if it’s an inevitable waste of resources, and hope there’s a way they can anonymously vote it down. However, over the years, I’ve found more often than not, there are often ways to leverage the legacy-builder’s desires to further enhance the organization’s drive forward. The legacy-builder often has years of insight and experience with the organization. The legacy-builder often has a broad network within and outside the organization. The legacy-builder carries influence with select segments of the organization. The legacy-builder is also often willing to put funds towards ensuring the legacy opportunity succeeds. And, the legacy-builder often has a desire to help others and the organization (even though it’s often overshadowed by her seemingly self-centered comments and actions). So why not leverage the numerous benefits the legacy-builder possesses to achieve a stronger, more impactful service for others? When legacy-building is focused outward more than inward, you can leverage the numerous benefits the legacy-builder brings and is willing to commit to achieve strategic outcomes for the organization.
The Greater Legacy Helps the Organization Most of All
Yes, when an organization implements programs, events, or projects because of a legacy-builder, the legacy-builder’s name is on them. The legacy-builder may even be able to speak at the inaugural or annual event, and yes, the legacy-builder’s picture and bust may be displayed in affiliation with them. However, when aligned with the organization’s strategic plan, strategic initiatives that evolved from an initially inward-focused idea, can become some of the most popular, well-funded, and brand-building programs or projects for an organization. Each of those helps the organization and those the organization serves. Does the legacy-builder receive recognition too? Sure. But the legacy-builder, if s/he supported the needed changes in the initiative to ensure it aligned with the organization’s strategic plan, served a key purpose: The legacy-builder helped move the organization, those the organization serves, and themselves forward. Win-win-win.
Win-win-win. All it takes is to identify and then act upon the greater legacy.